It was late in the day last Monday, Veteran's Day, when an elderly man wearing a mortarboard showed up at The Waynedale News. Bob Hughes, of 1627 Shoreview Drive, was carrying a new high school diploma. The lines in his face assured me he was close to being an octogenarian, but his smile was that of a 'brand' new high school graduate.
"I was hoping you could get a picture of me with my new diploma," he said proudly.
I unrolled the blue backdrop that my sister Kath had made, hung it on the wall, and loaded the digital camera with a new disc. I took a couple of pictures and asked him how it was that a man his age was just graduating from high school.
As it turns out, Bob Hughes was born in Roanoke Indiana. The last time he was in High school was back in 1944, when he was 17 years old. WWII was in full swing, so, he quit school and enlisted in the Navy.
Bob did his basic training and was assigned to operate an LST (Landing Ship Tank). He was ready to go overseas when the war ended. Bob came back to Roanoke, and like so many others that came home, his life was filled with getting married, working, and caring for a family. Bob drove semi's for 43 years at Hall's Trucking and then retired. The opportunity to go back to high school just never came around.
Bob explained that last summer, the Indiana State Legislature passed a bill that allowed people like himself,who's education had been interrupted by the war, to receive an honorary diploma.
Bob Hughes and I stood at the counter of The Waynedale News, and talked about the ceremony at Huntington North High School. Tom Applegate, the Huntington County Veterans Service Officer read the list of 18 graduates to the entire student body.
It was easy to see that this diploma was something that meant a great deal to Bob. The tassel from the mortarboard swayed back and forth as he talked, brushing his cheek and getting stuck on his ear. "You can take that off now if you like, I'm done taking pictures," I said.
"It's Ok," he replied as he was walking out the door, "I think I'll just leave it on for awhile".
note: I called Senator David Long's office in Indianapolis and found that they are hoping to extend this type of legislation to include Korean and Vietnam War Veterans.